A spate of crashes during the early part of the stage one of the Giro d'Italia on the slick Naples roads hinted to a bigger crash in the hectic, high-speed finale. And it came in the final two kilometres in the final corners of the stage as riders fought for position at over 60km/h, costing Italy's Mattia Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli) any chance of victory and taking the pink jersey.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and fellow sprinters Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Adam Blythe (BMC) and Danilo Hondo and Giacomo Nizzolo (Radioshack-Leopard) were all ahead of the carnage but numerous other riders went into the barriers and the peloton split.
Upfront Cavendish showed his sprinting skills with a perfectly timed acceleration into the headwind and won the sprint and took what is his third pink jersey.
Behind the crash, rivals sprinters Gavazzi, Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Manuel Belletti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) all crashed or were delayed by the spill. Other riders were affected, with most of the peloton delayed but lucky not to be hurt.
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) also went down and crossed the line several minutes after Cavendish. However because the crash happened inside the final three kilometres, everyone affected by the crash was given the same time as Cavendish. Official results showed that all 207 riders finished the stage.
Millar tweeted quickly after his crash: "I love crashing the first day of a Grand Tour: glut & shoulder bruised to hell, bike broken :( Congrats @MarkCavendish, delivers as usual."
Gavazzi close to tears
Gavazzi was gutted not to have contested the sprint and to have missed out on a chance to take the pink jersey. He was close to tears after picking himself up and riding to the finish.
"I think it's normal to have tears in your eyes considering the occasion I've missed out on. It's a real pity because I felt good and could have fought for victory. You don’t get many chances to win like that," he said.
I don’t really know what happened or who caused it. Ahead of me someone went into the corner too fast and crashed, took down my front wheel and dragged me down."
Earlier in the stage Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard). Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Laurent Pichon (FDJ) all crashed hard on the slick road surface. Their Giro d'Italia began with a painful first day.